COURT WATCH: Prosecutor Persistent, but Judge Accepts Felony Reduction for ‘Overpoliced’ Man

By Kiana Khatibi and Kaylee Pearlman

WOODLAND, CA – It wasn’t for lack of trying, but the prosecutor here in Yolo County Superior Court this week failed to convince Judge Samuel T. McAdam an “overpoliced” man’s felony charge for alleged vandalism shouldn’t be reduced to a misdemeanor.

In a preliminary hearing, the prosecution was determined to keep the vandalism charge as a felony, citing the accused’s past criminal history. The man is also charged with domestic violence.

The defense filed a 17(b) motion, asking the felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor for lack of sufficient evidence that over $400 in damage was done via vandalism.

As witnesses recounted, the accused allegedly committed vandalism in a hotel room. He was reported to be domestically abusive toward his girlfriend on May 27, 2021. The manager of the hotel estimated that $200-$300 in damage was done to the digital lock of the hotel room door alone.

The accused’s girlfriend was described by Officer Erika Barajas to have visible injuries and described to the officer the verbal altercation that she and the accused got into. This altercation led to the accused “physically assaulting her, throwing her to the ground, and then leaving the scene.”

Upon returning to the hotel room, the accused found that the victim had locked herself in the room, and he allegedly kicked down the door, damaging it in the process.

As was established through the course of this preliminary hearing, the only physical evidence of damage to the hotel room was seen on the door itself, despite previous claims that there was also damage done to the toilet of the room and the digital lock of the door.

This damage done to the door is estimated to cost around $200-$300, and the defense noted anything under $400 is to be charged as a misdemeanor.

This lack of sufficient physical evidence that there was any other damage done to the hotel room other than that on the door, along with the questionability of the qualifications of the hotel manager to adequately estimate the cost of damages, led to Deputy Public Defender Danielle Craig to motion to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor.

She stated that, “the People have not fulfilled the burden based on the lack of evidence,” adding, her client is, “a Black man that has been overpoliced in his life,” when referencing his criminal record.

“It is broad daylight, [and] people are asking him to stop. He was so enraged at whatever domestic violence dispute he had going on that he shows zero regard for the property. He is very much aware that he needs to conform to his behavior and he is not,” said the DDA.

“What makes it a felony is that the damage is over $400, which the court has found,” DDA Allen continued to plead.

However, Judge McAdam stated that “what I was looking for was whether he had convictions involving damage to other people’s property…then I would be entitled to deny the motion of 17(b).”

The judge summarized, “on the other hand, if his convictions involve drugs or other violence then I am inclined to grant the 17(b).”

Prosecuting attorney Allen continued to fight for the felony charge. “With all due respect…I don’t think that anything about his conduct in that video, nor his history indicates that he is deserving of a reduction to a misdemeanor in this case.”

Judge McAdam countered the prosecutor by noting, “17(b) allows the court to evaluate whether or not a criminal conviction remains a felony or be reduced to a misdemeanor…that is a matter of discretion.”

About The Author

Kaylee is a senior at CSU Long Beach majoring in Criminal Justice. She is interested in the law and passionate about social justice! Following her graduation, she plans on returning to school to get a B.S. in psychology. In the future, she strives to become a criminal psychologist.

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